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Tricky Bird IDs: Accipiter Photo Gallery

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Adult birds

sh-shindhawk_titl.gif (1372 bytes) coopershawk_titl.gif (1097 bytes)
Photo by Bill Diedrich,
Hurlock, Maryland
Photo by David Smith,
Grand Junction, Colorado
Photo by Ellen Gennrich, Brookfield, Wisconson
Photo by Linda Williams,
Liberty, Missouri
Note the broad chest and narrow hips. Also note the thin, pencil-like legs and relatively small head. The photo on the left shows that all the tail feathers are the same length. Note the barrel shaped body, with the widest portion coming about mid chest rather than upper chest. Note also the varied length of the tail feathers. If viewed from behind, the bird on the left would appear to have a square tail in this position.
Photo by James Tuomey,
El Prado, New Mexico
Photo by Maria Corcacas,
Middletown, New York
Photo by David Smith,
Grand Junction, Colorado
Photo by Bob Williams,
Huntley, Illinois
Note the dark feathers from the top of head, down the nape of the neck, and to the upper back, giving adult Sharp-shinned Hawks a "hooded" appearance. The feathers on the back of the neck of a Cooper's Hawk are lighter than the top of the head, giving the bird a "capped" appearance. Also note the broad white tip to the tail and the relatively large head.

Juvenile birds

Both species in juvenile plumage feature vertical stripes on the breast. Eyes are yellow on young birds.

sh-shindhawk_titl.gif (1372 bytes) coopershawk_titl.gif (1097 bytes)
Note that the juvenile plumage lacks the hooded effect of the adult Sharp-shinneds Hawks. The heavy striping that extends nearly to the tail and the very thin legs distinguish this hawk from a Cooper's Hawk.
Note the relative thin, dark stripes on the breast that fade out before reaching the tail. Also note the rounded tail.
Photo by David Smith,
Grand Junction, Colorado
Photo by Laura Graham,
Whitewater, Wisconsin

Tricky identifications--Juvenile birds
sh-shindhawk_titl.gif (1372 bytes)
coopershawk_titl.gif (1097 bytes)

The yellowish eyes confirm that this is a juvenile, which makes the light coloring on the back of the neck irrelevant. The tail appears rounded, but only a couple of feathers are visible. Although the head appears large, the body shape, the lack of white at the tip of the tail, and the very thin legs confirm that this is a Sharp-shinned Hawk. The yellow eyes confirm that this is a juvenile, which makes the light coloring on the nape irrelevant. The tail appears squared off, but shorter feathers may be tucked inside of longer ones. The head size, body shape, and white-tipped tail feathers confirm that this is a Cooper's Hawk.
Photo by Errol Taskin,
Shreveport, Louisiana
Photo by David Smith,
Grand Junction, Colorado
The striping on this bird is dark and not as heavy as on most Sharp-shinneds, but very thin legs, tail feathers of equal length, and a relatively small head confirm Sharp-shinned Hawk. Striping is heavier, more rufous colored, and extends farther down the belly than is typical for Cooper's, but the very thick legs, barrel shaped chest, and large head confirm Cooper's Hawk.
Photo by Errol Taskin,
Shreveport, Louisiana
Photo by Michael Wiegand,
Pearl, Idaho

Transitional plumage

These hawks are in the middle of a molt from juvenile to adult plumage. Note the light rufous horizontal barring in the feathers at the lower belly.

sh-shindhawk_titl.gif (1372 bytes)
coopershawk_titl.gif (1097 bytes)
Adult feathers coming in on the crown give this bird a capped appearance, but the shape, head size, and tail feathers confirm Sharp-shinned. The striping on this hawk extend well down the belly, but the very thick legs, varied length of tail feathers, body shape, and head size confirm Cooper's.
Photo by James Tuomey,
El Prado, New Mexico
Photo by David Smith,
Grand Junction, Colorado
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